© Vladimir Minin

A look at the international choral scene: Russia

Interview with Russian choral legend Vladimir Minin

International Choral Scene

What is the current state of the international choral scene? After insights from the USA and China we now take a look at Russia: Vladimir Minin, Russian choral legend, answers some questions about the current state of choral music in his home country. 

What is the current situation - after 6 months of Corona pandemic - regarding the choral landscape in Russia?

Unfortunately the current "season(s)" are less positive than "The Seasons" by Tchaikovsky or Vivaldi. I think that there is still a long way to go until the situation can return to what it was before the pandemic. 

I have little knowledge about the state of affairs of amateur choirs, which of course constitute the majority in Russia. It seems that there are no sources that deal with this problem. Professional choirs, on the other hand, are gradually becoming more and more active. However, this process is complicated by the fact that Covid-19 is spread by droplets in the air and, as you know, the singing process is coupled with intensive breathing. On the one hand, we miss expressing our feelings while singing and the sincere communication with our fellow singers, the creative process, but on the other hand, fear and alertness prevail. In a word, I would compare the present state of choral life in Russia with the change of seasons - when winter has not yet given up, but spring begins unnoticeably the process of " sneaking in " of its rule.

With which strategies do choirs in Russia face the new situation?

At the moment they are beginning to engage in groups or as individuals, observing precautionary measures: Masks, disinfectants, daily temperature measurements and of course no hugs, which are otherwise common. Those choirs which are able to comply with the appropriate conditions take the liberty of general rehearsals, albeit restricted in time. Some choirs started to give concerts. In addition, choirs publish their recordings during the quarantine on the Internet - solo or as an ensemble and even in the choir, where each member of the choir performed the recording at home under the direction of the conductor. With the current state of technological development, this is perfectly feasible. So we are adapting to overcome the difficulties that have arisen. Our choir therefore sang two pieces from Rossini's "Small solemn mass" - a double fugue (No. 7) and "Agnus Dei".

In your personal environment, what are the greatest difficulties caused by coronary restrictions and how do you deal with them?

Of course, many things are no longer available and of course the range of possible activities is very limited. But have I suffered from it? Rather not! I read a lot and understood the saying: "I know that I know nothing."  Books about history, documentaries and memoirs became my "cellmates". Besides, it is so pleasant to read again what I have read before - Tolstoy and Gogol, Pushkin and Chekhov, Y. London and Zweig, etc. I also conducted a master class on "INTERPRETATION" with choral directors via Internet. So I spent this time very well and very useful.

In your opinion, how will the cultural landscape in Russia be changed by the pandemic?

In 2004 the Avian Influenza affected almost the whole world. Has this affected cultural life? Not at all. Of course we had losses of some artists who fell ill. I think the same can happen with Covid-19. The introduction of restrictions is still a temporary measure, and in the end life will have taken its tribute.

What do you think the current situation implies in terms of further meetings and international exchanges with choirs on an international level?

If we start from the premise that every action leads to resistance, we can hope that poets and composers, under the influence of prevailing circumstances, will create works with some new shades that reflect our mortal life. As it turns out, our world is quite fragile, so the exchange of information from "INTERKULTUR" about choral activities is of great importance. It was very useful and important for me to get acquainted with the worldwide choir movement in Sochi 2016,and to hear modern trends in the world of choirs.

How do you evaluate the impact of the current crisis on the national choral scene in Russia? Will digital offers and technologies become more and more attractive for choral work or are they rather a temporary means to an end?

Your question already contains the answer: digital technologies are a temporary means, a way out, an instrument for information exchange - but nothing more. No technology can convey the choir's living energy and the subtleties of the movement of its collective soul. As for the consequences of this pandemic in Russia, much will depend on how the genre of choral art will attract the attention of the authorities, because choral art is a true communicator of the original Russian spirit.